1762 - Siege of Schweidnitz – Preparations
The siege lasted from August to October 1762
Description of Events
Preparation for the Siege
In 1762, during his last Silesian campaign, when Marshal Daun was forced to retire towards Glatz (present-day Kłodzko) after his defeat at the battle of Burkersdorf (present-day Burkatow) on July 21, Frederick II instantly proceeded upon Schweidnitz (present-day Swidnica) where Daun had left a garrison of 9,000 men picked among all regiments of his army and organised into battalions; in addition to 2 Grenzer battalions and 250 dragoons and hussars; for a total of about 12,000 men.
Frederick's army occupied strong positions which they further strengthened with entrenchments. His positions were as follows:
- headquarters at Dittmansdorf (present-day Dziećmorowice)
- General Gablenz with 5 bns and 10 sqns at Hartmansdorf (present-day Miłoszów)
- General Ramin with 5 bns at Altwasser (present-day Stary Zdrój)
- Neuwied's Corps (19 bns and 18 sqns) on the heights of Taschendorf (present-day Toszowice)
- Colonel Lossow with 2 bns and 20 sqns on the Kolberg near Wäldichen (present-day Podlesie)
- General Mollendorf with 5 bns at Weistritz (present-day Bystrzyca Dolna) facing Schweidnitz
- General Manteufel with 9 bns on the heights of Barzdorf (present-day Bartoszówek)
- General Bulow with
- 15 sqns at Seitendorf (present-day Rusinowa)
- 9 bns at Bogendorf (present-day Witoszów)
- 3 bns at Würben (present-day Wierzbna) with the bakery
Furthermore, the Duke of Württemberg marched from Löwenstein to Peterswaldau (present-day Pieszyce) with 33 sqns.
The Prussian Army was posted between Daun and the fortress in a fine large crescent-shape, to south-west of Schweidnitz some 16 km. Frederick's headquarters were at Dittmannsdorf. Frederick also recalled his Upper-Silesia detachments. He blockaded Schweidnitz and named Lieutenant-general Tauentzien as siege-captain to undertake the siege. Tauentzien was seconded by Major-generals von Gablenz, Prince von Bernburg and von Thadden. His artillery was under the command of Colonel von Dieskau.
At the end of July, Lossow Hussars (5 sqns), the Bosniaken, Zieten Hussars (5 sqns) and some cuirassier regiments of the Prussian main army were transferred to the division of the Duke of Württemberg deployed east of Reichenbach (present-day Dzierżoniów), near the camp of Peterswaldau, in front of Peiskersdorf (present-day Piskorzów), where the heavy cavalry was encamped.
On August 1, two convoys left respectively Neisse (present-day Nysa) and Breslau (present-day Wroclaw) with the necessary siege materials (artillery pieces and ammunition) and marched towards Würben.
On August 2, the squadrons of the Duke of Württemberg's division were employed to escort a convoy bringing ammunition from Neisse.
On August 3, the Austrians started to work at the erection of a new flèche (Flèche No. XIII) on a height in front of the Galgenfort, overlooking all the low grounds up to Wilkau (present-day Wilków). The Prussians decided to open the trenches between the Garten Fort and the Jauernick Fort, the one place were they would be the most exposed to artillery fire from the fortress.
State of the Fortress of Schweidnitz
As mentioned before, the Austrians had improved the fortifications of the place to prevent its capture by storm; thus forcing the Prussians to undertake a formal siege. However, the Bögen Fort No. IV was quite weak, with its flat surroundings which made it vulnerable to mining work and its exposed gorge only protected with fascines and a series of palisades in the ditch. These fascines and palisades could easily be destroyed with a few well placed bombs. To protect this fort, the Flèche No. XV had been built near the so-called Neumühle on the Kroischwitz height. Meanwhile, miners repaired the mines around the Bögen Fort No. IV and the Galgen Fort.
In the night of August 3 to 4, Tauentzien caused alarms on all sides of Schweidnitz while he prepared to open the trench. A party of Grenzers and Austrian hussars occupied a small work in front of the Striegauer Gate.
By August 4, the Prussian corps of Lieutenant-general Tauentzien (22 bns, 20 sqns for a total of about 13,500 men) had completely invested the fortress of Schweidnitz. The battalions assigned to Tauentzien averaged only 300 men. The siege was directed by Major Lefebvre, a French engineer who was assisted by 4 captains, 9 lieutenants, a few drivers and volunteer officers. The 40 Prussian miners were under the command of Major Signoret, seconded by Lieutenant Beauvin. Captain Raoul of the III./Garde served as “Trench-Major”, seconded by 2 officers. Tauentzien's Corps was deployed as follows:
- Gabelenz Brigade between Polnisch Weistritz and Nieder-Bögendorf
- Prince von Bernburg Brigade between Schönbrunn (present-day Słotwina) and Tunkendorf (present-day Tomkowa)
- Thadden Brigade between Tunkendorf and Zülzendorf (present-day Sulislawice)
- HR7 Malachowski Hussars (5 sqns) in second line behind Tunkendorf
- Flans, encamped along the Scheidnitzwasser between Ritschendorf (unidentified location) and Wilkau with HR7 Malachowski Hussars (3 sqns)
- GR7 Itzenplitz (1 bn) cantoned at Wilkau
- KR9 Bredow Cuirassiers (2 sqns) between Wilkau and Weizenrode
- KR9 Bredow Cuirassiers (3 sqns) between Niedergiersdorf and Pültzen
- HR7 Malachowski Hussars (5 sqns) in second line behind Tunkendorf
Meanwhile, Prussian miners arriving from Neisse established their quarters at Tunkendorf. Frederick entrenched his army in a strong camp extending from Ludwigsdorf (present-day Bojanice) to Faulenbrück (unidentified location) to cover the siege. The Prussian hospital was installed at Neudorf (unidentified location). Daun was staying idle in his entrenched camp at Hohgiersdorf (present-day Modliszów), fearing a Prussian attack.
In the evening at 10:00 p.m., Tauentzien sent Colonel Berner with 400 foot, supported by 100 hussars and dragoons to attack and seize the small defensive work in front of the Striegauer Gate. The Austrians retired from this work which was then set afire by the guns of the fortress. In this action, the Prussians lost 3 man killed and 8 wounded. Lefebvre then reconnoitre the fortress with some of his engineers escorted by a detachment of hussars.
On August 5, Tauentzien established his headquarters at Würben while Lefebvre established the plan of his future trenches and parallels. The artillery depot (90 siege pieces) was located between Bunzelwitz (present-day Bolesławice) and Teichenau (present-day Bagieniec).
While the siege operations slowly progressed, the Austrian relief army was approaching. Daun planned to flow round by the southern skirt of Frederick's army and to seize certain heights, Koltschen Height the key one, to the south-eastern side of Schweidnitz but he was waiting for the arrival of Beck's Corps to do so.
To create a diversion, the Duke of Bevern was ordered to advance from Cosel (present-day Kozanow) into enemy territory to force Daun to divert troops from the relief of Schweidnitz. Accordingly, the Prussian detachments from Upper-Silesia and Neisse, under Bevern, marched towards the enemy as ordered.
Early on August 6, the Prussians began to mark the line of the trenches under a heavy artillery fire from the fortress. The numerous wooden houses near the glacis were set to fire by the defenders during the following night. The same day, Beck marched from Zuckmantel (present-day Zlaté Hory) in Moravia to make a junction with Daun's main Austrian army.
During the night of August 7 to 8, Tauentzien opened his first parallel in the areas of Schönbrunn, Tunkendorf and Sabischdorf (present-day Zawiszów). For this purpose, he sent Major-general von Gablenz with 8 bns (Grenadier Battalion 29/31 Falkenhayn, II./Gabelentz Fusiliers, II./Braun Fusiliers, I./Ferdinand von Preußen, I./Prinz Heinrich von Preußen Fusiliers, I./Anhalt-Bernburg, III./Anhalt-Bernburg and Grenadier Battalion 12/39 Görne) to cover the 4,100 workers, including 2,100 Prussian soldiers. Furthermore, 2 sqns of Finckenstein Dragoons were posted near Schönbrunn and 150 men of Malachowski Hussars near Sabischdorf to support the infantry. The Prussian commander expected an attack from the Galgen Fort or the Bögenfort, so he lit big fires, keeping them burning and shot a few flares. Nevertheless, some Grenzers made a sortie from the Striegauer Fleche and fired to the covering forces from the distance. Then, the artillery of all Austrian forts suddenly opened a heavy fire, putting most of the workers working at the trenches in front of Sabischdorf (H on plate V) in flight. The middle communication trench (G on plate V) could not be completed during this first night.
The other phases of the siege are described in the following articles:
- Siege till the battle of Reichenbach (August 8 to 16, 1762) describing the initial siege operations and the battle of Reichenbach.
- From the battle of Reichenbach till the beginning of mining operations (August 17 to 22, 1762) describing the continuation of the siege after the Prussian victory at Reichenbach, the Prussian unsuccessful attempts to storm the place and the decision to rely on mining operations to conquer the fortress.
- First phase of the mining operarions (August 23 to September 22, 1762) describing the initial mining operations till the direct intervention of Frederick II.
- Second phase of the mining operarions (September 23 to October 11, 1762) describing the mining operations from the arrival Frederick II to the capitulation and occupation of the fortress.
The article is mainly a condensed translation of:
- Tielke, J.G.: Beytrage zur Kriegs-Kunst und Heschichte des Krieges von 1756 bis 1763, Vol. 4, Freyberg, 1781, pp. 151-359
A few paragraphs are excerpts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Carlyle T.: History of Friedrich II of Prussia vol. 20
- Jomini, Henri: Traité des grandes opérations militaires, 2ème édition, 4ème partie, Magimel, Paris: 1811, pp. 215-224
- Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. V, Paris, 1891, pp. 301-304
Archenholz, J. W. von, Geschichte des Siebenjahrigen Krieges in Deutschland, Berlin: 1828
Duffy, Christopher, Fire and Stone: The Science of Fortress Warfare (1660-1860), David & Charles, London: 1975
Fiedler, Siegfried, Geschichte der Grenadiere Friedrichs des Grossen, München 1981
Grosser Generalstab, Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Hiller, Berlin, 1830-1913
Jany, K., Geschichte des Koniglische Preussische Armee, t. 2, Berlin 18??
Plan der Festung Schweidnitz nebst der Kayserl. Konigl. Attaque A(nn)o 1757 - Collection of Krzysztof Czarnecki
Tempelhoff, G. F., Geschichte des Siebenjahrige Krieges in Deutschland, t. VI, Berlin 1801, pp. 140-155
Carlo Bessolo for the initial version of this article